I quoted below, the words of Ven. Dhammavuddho, who stated that, according to SN 55.5, to attain stream entry, one must have focused attention (yoniso manasikara) when listening to the true Dhamma from true men (ariyans) and contemplating on it. After that, they must practise the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma.

They can have focused attention, only if the five hindrances stop habitually obsessing their minds. Two types of persons pass this criteria - one who has attained the first jhana and one who is highly intelligent (has high IQ). Both can concentrate their minds effectively.

My questions are:

  • Is the role of IQ as stated above, found in the suttas? (reference request)
  • How could not-so-intelligent persons compensate for their lack of IQ, if they want to understand the Dhamma and attain stream entry?

In the YouTube video entitled "Characteristics of a Sotapanna", Ven. Dhammavuddho Mahathera stated (with some paraphrasing):

Now we look at another Sutta - SN 55.5. ... It is mentioned that there are four factors or conditions for stream entry - sotapattiyangani. First, association with true men - sappurisa. Second, hearing the true Dhamma (Saddhamma). Third, focused attention or proper attention (yoniso manasikara). And fourth, practice of the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma - Dhammanudhammapatipatti.

The first one is association with true men. The word sappurisa also means ariyans - those who understand the true Dhamma. Because they understand the true Dhamma, you can hear the true Dhamma from them.

The second condition - What is the true Dhamma? ... if it agrees with the Buddha's words in the Suttas, then it is the true Dhamma. ....

The third condition, this word - yoniso manasikara, which I translate as focused attention. Sometimes they say careful attention. This word means that when you listen to the Dhamma, you are focused on listening to the Dhamma. In other words, at that time, you don't have the five hindrances. If that is so, then you can understand the Dhamma and attain stream entry.

So who are the people who do not have the five hindrances? In the suttas, it is stated by the Buddha that as long as a person has not attained piti and sukha which are secluded from unwholesome states, which are secluded from sensual pleasures, the five hindrances will obsess him and obsess him habitually.

So, there are two types of persons who do not have the five hindrances. The first is the one who has attained the first jhana (i.e. he who has attained piti and sukha). When a person has attained the first jhana, he has eliminated the five hindrances and the Buddha says that the five hindrances no longer obsess that person habitually.

So there are two conditions if a person has the hindrances. Firstly, it obsesses your mind, it enslaves your mind. Secondly, it is habitual, it is very often there. ... When a person attains the first jhana, these hindrances reduce to a very low level. ...

The other type of person who does not have the five hindrances habitually obsessing his mind is an intelligent person - the person with a high IQ. Normally, a person born with a high IQ, he has good concentration and that was obtained from previous lives. A very good example is Albert Einstein. ... (some example of Albert Einstein) ... It shows that he had great concentration. So, people who are intelligent, they are able to focus their mind. That is very important. A scatter-brained person cannot be an intelligent person - the mind is so scattered.

These are the two types of persons. One, because of previous lives, he's born very intelligent - he can focus his mind. The second person is one who has attained the jhanas.

The fourth condition - practice of the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma. So he keeps practising the Dhamma and he will attain stream entry. Now this fourth condition may not be necessary for some people. We find in the suttas - many people when they listen to the Buddha, speaking the Dhamma, even for the first time, they attain stream entry. The Buddha confirms this. But some people after they have listened, it doesn't click immediately. They go back and they think about it and then it clicks. And then they understand the Dhamma and attain stream entry.

So this practice of the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma is after he has listened, he starts to recall the Dhamma or investigate more of the Dhamma. And then after some time, then the pieces fall into place like a jigsaw puzzle. And then he sees the Dhamma.

  • In my carefully considered view, yoniso manasikara is a dynamic term referring to the various ways we can apply our receptivity towards the teachings, not just in a focussed way.
    – Max
    Jan 23 '21 at 11:24

The quote seems to be equating IQ with concentration: it says, "Normally, a person born with a high IQ, he has good concentration and that was obtained from previous lives."

I suppose that sounds plausible -- that, to be intelligent, someone must be able to concentrate -- but I guess that's a personal opinion of the author (not "universally valid"), and has exceptions to the rule: I suppose that instead intelligent people may be conceited, for example; or lazy, or etc.

There's a bit in the Path to Purification about the six kinds of temperament, which says,

One who "possesses understanding" is one of intelligent temperament.

According to that definition, perhaps it's a truism (perhaps "understanding" erases the hindrance of "skeptical doubt").

I don't really know what Pali word is equivalent to "high IQ"?

There's a word cakkhumā which I think is used often: usually translated as "with good eyesight", but occasionally translated as "intelligent".

I think it means, more or less, "with little dust in their eyes" -- able to "see" or perceive the dhamma.

According to the PTS dictionary:

Cakkhumant (adj.) [cakkhu+mant] having eyes, being gifted with sight; of clear sight, intuition or wisdom; possessing knowledge (cp. samantacakkhu) D i.76 (one who knows, i. e. a connoisseur); cakkhumanto rūpāni dakkhinti "those who have eyes to see shall see" (of the Buddha) D i.85, 110, etc. -- Vin i.16; S i.27; A i.116, 124; iv.106; Dh 273; It 108, 115; DA i.221; DhA iii.403; iv.85. -- Esp. as Ep. of the Buddha: the Allwise S i.121, 134, 159, 210; Sn 31, 160, 992, 1028, 1116, 1128; Vv 125 (=pañcahi cakkhūhi cakkhumā Buddho Bhagavā VvA 60, cp. cakkhu iii.); Vv 8127.

I guess that may be related to "right view" (and eventually "wisdom") though, perhaps more than concentration.

I guess that to better understand the original quoted sutta (forgetting for the moment the Venerable's explanation of it as "high IQ") it would be good to investigate the meaning of yoniso manasikāra.


High intelligence could also be a prerequisite for fabricating endless destructive taught. So, I don't think its right to say IQ is a criterion. It's not intelligence which is needed, but virtue.

Visakha, the great female supporter was only seven years old, when the Buddha visited her birthplace... Though she was so young, she was religious and virtuous. As such, immediately after hearing the Dharma from the Buddha, she attained the first stage of sainthood.

So, It's not the intellectual capacity of Albert Enstaine which is needed but been virtuous and faith in the teaching.


Not sure about the suttas, but in Milindapanha it is said:

“What is the reason that a child under seven years of age is unable to attain insight? For a child is pure in mind and should be ready to realise the Dhamma.”

“If a child under seven, O king, could feel desire for things leading to desire, hatred for things arousing hatred, could be fooled by misleading things and could distinguish between wholesomeness and unwhole- someness then insight might be possible for him. However, the mind of a child under seven, O king, is feeble and the unconditioned element of nibbàna is weighty and profound. Therefore, O king, although he practised correctly, a child of under seven could not realise the Dhamma.”

So some level of IQ beyond "feeble" seems to be a requirement. Not sure how high it needs to be though. Anecdotally from my teachers, some types of high intelligence (the ones leading to conceptual proliferation, papanca) may actually get in the way.


It took lots of worldly self-tribe-preoccupied people with high IQ, such as Albert Einstein (who initially but later regrettably lobbied the US govt), to build the atomic bomb. Robert Oppenheimer proclaimed, from the Bhagavad-Gita:

"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

Today, there are all sorts of people with high IQ working in military & financial industries. IQ is obviously unrelated to stream-entry.

What is related to stream-entry is a pre-existing dispassion or disenchantment towards the world & the capacity (which includes fearlessness & strength) to let go & abandon 'self'. What is related to stream-entry is a sensitivity towards suffering.

If IQ was required for stream-entry then stream-entry itself would be a mental thinking exercise, which is not the case. Stream-entry requires non-thinking rather than thinking. This shows how tenuous Dhammavuddho appears to be.

  • 2
    Exactly, IQ has nothing to do with it.
    – user19910
    Nov 21 '20 at 13:53
  • 2
    I agree totally. Intelligence is not a unitary phenomenon. A mathematical genius could be a horrible physicist. An architect could be at a loss to understand the nuances of surgery. Even high profile criminals are highly intelligent. What matters is the capacity to understand the subtleties of dhamma which has nothing to do with the above types of intelligence. Call it what you may, it is far removed from the verbal and nonverbal tests that define our conventional intelligence. Isn't there already a beautiful word- 'wisdom' , panna- that describes this capacity to understand dhamma? Nov 24 '20 at 12:56

The Intelligence Quotient measuring mental acuity does not apply without Emotional Intelligence and Empathy (capacity for Compassion).


On a positive note living sustainably in the forest away from numeracy and arithmetic, one still a good chance for reaching the first level of enlightenment.

Cultivate in harmony


I think high iq is like having good eyesight.

In the dhamma-training the predominant insight faculty might allow to 'target' as in 'see the dhamma' more quickly, that as in that one 'sees the point', intellectually grasps the teaching and due to this understanding the mind can be directed to the deathless element even after the 1st jhana and this realizes the unsurpassed release sannavedananirodha. I say it might allow because someone lacking in wisdom might outwork the other or just train smarter if well instructed. All things being otherwise effectively equal the one with quick discernment will see the Dhamma more quickly and by that understand consciousness.

Pannavimutti are type of Arahants with predominant insight faculty. They skip the arupa jhana and rely only on the rupa jhana and the cessation principle for destruction of taints by seeing with wisdom.

The understanding of the dhamma has to mature based on meditation, extremely high iq won't guarantee seeing, there might be some blocks such as bias and personal fixations. One of quick discernment has to do the same work in regards to heedfulness and attending to the teachers message.

I think that one with slow wisdom has these obstacles;

  • prone to wrong views and speculation
  • sadness and worry about not knowing

#1. I think learning about foremost wrong views is good. Admirable comraderie is essential.

What i would do is simply learn sutta, memorize the essentials and cultivate faith and concentration, wisdom will follow.

High iq can overrated. It's like having good eye sight, it is a waste if there is nothing nice to see or if nobody shows you the path to nice things. There is a reason why iq doesn't directly correlate to seeing the Dhamma.

One who isn't very quick in wisdom but is good hearted, of steadfast faith, easy to admonish and with wise friends, he can be expected to realize the goal.

Imo far too few people admit that they might not understand much if any of the complex dhamma that is hard to see. I think they aren't doing themselves any favors and they can make things a lot easier for themselves by recognizing their strengths & weaknesses.

#2. One can keep this to a minimum and have a lot of faith and joy on account of the Teacher, Dhamma and The Sangha. Again, admirable comradery will outsource a lot of these issues for one such as this.

Also one should recognize speculative lines of reasoning and the doubt. One should learn that ''if either of two is true; then the foremost wrong view is that 'maybe this is true and maybe the other is true''.

One should focus on avoiding becoming fixated in wrong view.

Here the learning of Sutta expression is crucial, don't even pay attention to what most people say as it seems like 99% of people have no clue and many think they do have a clue and of those who do have a clue only a few are perfected in expression and don't do mistakes that will confuse people.


This is a misunderstanding of the notion of IQ. Perfectly understandable — Dhammavuddho is a buddhist monastic, not a cognitive psychologist — but worth reflecting on.

Focused attention is (perhaps) a feature associated with high IQ, but that has more to do with the nature of IQ testing than any deeper spiritual issue. IQ tests measure one's ability to pick out and analyze patterns. For instance, I once watched an acquaintance struggling with a logic puzzle — one of those things where one has to put oddly-shaped blocks together so they form a perfect cube — and I was confused about why he was struggling with it. I could see a pattern that he could not; I could not see why he could not see it. But note that this wasn't a matter of the capacity for focused attention — he was quite focused on the task — but a matter of focusing attention on the correct aspects of the problem at hand. In that sense it's like seeing the man (or rabbit) in the moon, or one of those optical illusions that is first a vase and then a pair of faces. One doesn't see it and then one does, for no readily apparent reason; something beneath the thinking mind seems to suddenly 'grasp' the task and reorganize one's perceptions.

Many intelligent people are spiritually inept, because they have trained their focused attention on all the wrong things. We might think about lawyers here: lawyers are generally quite bright, but have dedicated their careers to defending and promoting the selfish, ego-bound, materialistic desires of their clients. The work of a lawyer is bound up with presenting illusion as solid, factual truth; their focused attention is fixated in entirely the wrong direction (from the Buddhist perspective).

The 'intelligence' of a Buddhist lies in being open to that moment of conceptual reorganization, of waiting for something underneath the thinking mind to grasp what's going on and shift one's perspective. Those whose focused attention is fixated (a fixation implicit in the concept of tanhā), miss that moment of natural 'grasping' because they are intent on grasping something else entirely. IQ can be a help or a hinderance.


According to AN 6.87 (quoted below), one of the characteristics of a person who will be able to understand and practise the teachings of the Buddha with skillful qualities, is that they are "wise, bright and clever".

“Mendicants, someone with six qualities is unable to enter the sure path with regards to skillful qualities even when listening to the true teaching. What six? They murder their mother or father or a perfected one (arahant). They maliciously shed the blood of a Realized One (Tathagata). They cause a schism in the Saṅgha. They’re witless, dull, and stupid. Someone with these six qualities is unable to enter the sure path with regards to skillful qualities, even when listening to the true teaching.

Someone with six qualities is able to enter the sure path with regards to skillful qualities when listening to the true teaching. What six? They don’t murder their mother or father or a perfected one (arahant). They don’t maliciously shed the blood of a Realized One (Tathagata). They don’t cause a schism in the Saṅgha. They’re wise, bright, and clever. Someone with these six qualities is able to enter the sure path with regards to skillful qualities when listening to the true teaching.”

The Pali phrase here is "paññavā hoti ajaḷo aneḷamūgo".

"jaḷa" and "eḷamūga" are opposites of "ajaḷa" and "aneḷamūga".

From the Concise Pali-English Dictionary:

pañña: [adj.] wise; endowed with knowledge. (in cpds.). || paññā (f.) wisdom; knowledge; insight.

jaḷa (adj.) slow; stupid. (m.) a stupid person.

eḷamūga: [m.] idiot.


Achieving high IQ test scores is coextensive with the ability to maintain focused concentration of one’s attention. As that ability develops, the potential to achieve higher scores also develops. That this ability is a sought after result of meditative practice does not exclude the possibility of being born with this ability, or being nurtured to develop it, but without traditional training in meditation. I feel that these points are self-evident.

Thus, a high IQ test score does not obviate the need for the ability to focus and concentrate, rather, it evidences that ability.

But the flip side of that—not having high IQ scores—does not evidence an inability to focus and concentrate, because you may not be interested in the problems presented, desiring instead to study the Dharma. Last time I had an IQ test, I didn’t see any Dharma questions in it.

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